Steam arrived on Chrome OS in early 2022 thanks to a partnership between Google and Valve, meaning you can now play Steam games on Chromebooks.
There are a few caveats, though: At the time this article was published, Steam on Chrome was still in a very early alpha state. As a result, it only works on a select few Chromebooks, and only if you switch them to Chrome’s Dev channel.
Google published its own Steam on Chrome OS Guide outlining the steps involved and warning against trying Steam on a Chromebook you can’t afford to mess up, at least until all the bugs are fixed.
“Alpha means anything can break. Due to the inherent instability of the Dev channel and the ongoing nature of this feature, we don’t recommend trying this on a Chromebook you rely on for work, school, or other daily activities,” Google warns, “You’ll run into crashes, performance regressions, and never-before-seen bugs — that’s part of the fun!”
That said, it’s worth trying to see if you can run Steam on your Chromebook. While it probably doesn’t compare to the best gaming laptops on the market, it can help keep you entertained in no time — and could turn your Chromebook into a more viable Steam gaming machine than your average MacBook, since many of the Steam games now running (sort of) on Chrome OS don’t run natively on Steam for Mac.
Playing Steam Games on a Chromebook: System Requirements
Google says that a Chromebook must meet the following minimum system requirements to use Steam:
- 11th Gen Intel Core i5 – i7 CPU with Integrated Intel Iris Xe Graphics
- 8GB RAM
I also recommend trying to free up some hard drive space, as many Chromebooks don’t pack much and Steam games regularly take up between 3GB and 100GB of space.
How to Play Steam Games on a Chromebook: Supported Models (As of April 20)
Here’s the latest list of Chromebooks that Google has confirmed will support Steam for Chrome OS. Note that even if you have one of these Chromebooks listed, it may not be the right model: Google specifically says Chromebooks with a Core i3 CPU or 4GB of RAM won’t use Steam. That’s why you need a Chromebook with at least an Intel Core i5 chip (a Core i7 is even better) and more than 4GB of RAM.
However, Google warns that Steam for Chrome currently has some issues that prevent even an eligible Chromebook from running games properly or at all. In particular, Steam for Chrome has problems running games that require 6 GB or more RAM on Chromebooks with 8 GB RAM, and games sometimes have problems scaling correctly on Chromebooks with screen resolutions higher than 1080p.
So if you’ve been hoping to get some 4K gaming on your Chromebook in between classes, I’m afraid you’ll have to hope for a little longer. Google says it’s currently working on these issues and will add more supported models to the list over time, so we’ll try to keep this list as up-to-date as possible.
Playing Steam games on a Chromebook: Installing Steam
Running Steam on a Chromebook can be fast, but it’s not easy. To get it done, you need to feel comfortable changing your Chromebook’s system settings and enabling experimental features, which can negatively impact your system. So before you get started, make sure you have backed up all critical documents and files to another system or one of the best cloud backup services.
All done? Let’s inject a little Steam into your Chromebook. Here’s how to install Steam on Chrome OS:
1. Switch your Chromebook to the Chrome OS Dev channel. To do this, open your Settings menu (one way to do this is by clicking the clock in the lower right corner and then clicking the Settings gear icon at the top of the menu that appears), navigate to the About Chrome OS tab in the menu on the left, click Additional details and then press the Change channel button in the Channel menu.
2. Restart your Chromebook.
3. Open a Chrome browser window and type chrome://flags in the navigation barand then press Enter. This will take you to Chrome’s experimental features page, which you can turn on or off at will. Use the search bar at the top to find the . to find and enable #borealis enabled flag, because it allows Borealis (the code name for Steam in Chrome OS) to run on your computer.
Google also recommends that you use the #exo-pointer-lock flag, because that locks mouse pointer control to Linux apps (like games) that request it. However, you only need the Borealis flag to run Steam.
4. Open a crosh (short for Chrome Shell) terminal window by pressing Ctrl+Alt+T. When it appears, type insert_coin voleer-JOlkth573FBLGa exactly as described here and then press Enter.
5. Follow the directions to download and install Steam on Chrome† Once it’s done, you can start downloading and installing games to see how/if they run on your Chromebook!
Keep in mind that Steam will attempt to run the Linux version of a game if it exists, so you’ll want to enable Steam Play, which uses Proton to run Linux games on non-Linux machines.
6. To enable Steam Play for all compatible titles, navigate to your steam settings menu then open the steam play submenu† From there, make sure the “Enable Steam Play for all other titles” is enabled. You can choose which software to use, but Google recommends this Proton Experimental.
If everything went smoothly, you should be well on your way to playing Steam games on your Chromebook. Keep in mind that this is alpha software that is still in its infancy and thus prone to crashing, freezing or causing strange bugs. Having fun!